Monday, December 8, 2008

Chapter Thirty-Three: 창덕궁 Palace

This weekend I visited Layna in Seoul and we went on many adventures. Our first stop was 창덕궁 (Changdeokgung) Palace. The palace was first built in 1405 but fell into disrepair after being destroyed in the Japanese invasion of 1592-1598. It was rebuilt during the seventeenth century and was the main palace for the Joseon Dynasty. Many of the buildings had to be rebuilt due to fire, but apparently they are all still real' historic. It's also freakin' huge. And it was in use until 1989.
Above is the entrance. It is called the Donhwamum Gate, first built in 1412, then restored in 1609. It is the oldest still-standing palatial gate in Korea.

The courtyard just as you pass through the gate.

Heading through another gate.

This is Injeongjeon Hall. It was built in 1405, restored in 1609, and last updated in 1908. It was used for "official ceremony, such as celebrations by royal subjects and receptions for foreign envoys." Injeongjeon Hall-aka the Throne Room. This is what you imagine when you think palace.

Hey look, it's a mountain. This happens a lot, as Layna says, when a country is 70% mountains.

The courtyard around Injeongjeon Hall.

"I'm in a palace!"

" Korea!"

Gettin' closer to the thrones.

I love the roofs. As always, they blow my mind with how much detail they can put onto a roof.

Inside Injeongjeon Hall

The throne!

I love the windows nearly as much as the roofs. I'm going to decorate my next apartment this way.

The money shot: Lookit that throne! Woo! (It should be noted that I'm not sure this is actually a throne, that's just what it appears to be.)

Korean forest on one side...

And Seoul's skyline on the other.

Nothin' like a little smog to remind you that you're in the city.

Courtyards, courtyards, courtyards.

Can't seem to find any information on this building in my guide. Alas.

Not an excellent shot, but I'm pretty sure this is Seonjeongjeon Hall, first built in 1461. The building was where the king would conduct business of state. It's the only building in the palace to still have the super-fancy blue tiled roof.

Somewhere around here is Heujijeondang which was the king's sleeping quarters and office. It was Westernized in the early 20th century. Hence the following photos.

Yeah, that don't look real' Korean to me. But it is pretty!

The outside of the building.

I love all the little overpasses between buildings. It reminds me of the tree houses in "Hook."

This courtyard, I believe, brings us into the Huwon, or "The Secret Garden."

Can't tell you how many times I have felt like this little Korean girl on a tour. Did I mention how cold it was? It was below freezing the whole day, apparently the high was about 23 degrees, and this tour was over an hour.
Here we are in Nakseonjae Area where the crown prince lived as well as other family members. The buildings do not have the typical painted roofs and would be much like aristocratic houses outside of the palace. They were used until 1989 when Bangja Lee, the wife of the last Crown Prince lived here.
You see that the buildings are raised with holes below them. This is for the typical Korean ondol heating system. There is a fire built below the floor and the heat goes up through the clay or stone floor. My apartment still has this kind of heating, 'cept without the fire underfoot. My boss at Hartsbrook used to talk about this as though it were cutting-edge green technology (we called it "toasty feet" heating) but in Korea it's been around for centuries.

This is what the little buildings look like inside. They look a lot like any Korean apartment I've seen, to be honest.

An iced-over pond! Love winter.
This is the Buyongji Area, which we were told many times was built for the "relaxation" of the royal family (though none of the area's activities sounded particularly relaxing to me). The pond was man-made with a design based on the traditional Korean concept of the universe. They believed that heaven is round and the earth is a rectangle--hence the rectangular pond and circular island. The building in the background is Juhamnu. It was built in 1778. The lower level was home to the royal archives known as Gyujanggak. Our tour guide said something about there being 170,000 volumes, but I might have misheard.
The little building in the front is called Yeonghwadang. As I understand it, from this location, the king "used to personally supervise state examinations to recruit civil and military officials." How intimidating would it be to have the king watching you take your GRE?

I can't find much information on this little building, known as Bujongjeon Pavilion, but its strange roof shape apparently has something to do with the shape of a lotus flower. Pretty neat!

The circular island of heaven.

"I want a picture of you in front of the lotus building" says Layna. I think I look pretty silly.

What's a Korean travel blog without a picture or two of magpies?

This gate, Bullomun, is apparently magical. If you cross through it you will increase your "longevity." Layna said that her first tour guide claimed it was meant to give you eternal life. Is it wishful thinking on one tour guide's part? The guide says this: "'Bullo' means 'not to age,' and embodies a wish for the king to live a long and healthy life." Apparently tour guide number 1 was just having some fun with her job.

Layna's "I'm at a palace!" pose.

This is the Aerjeonji Area--another man-made pond. The guide has some excellent words on this attraction of unknown age: "'Aeryeon' means 'loving the lotus,' which symbolizes the virtue of a gentleman." Yeah, ten points if you can figure out what that one means.

Finally, we have Euiduhap, where "it is said that Prince Hyomyeon, son of King Sunjo, enjoyed reading and contemplating."

I will post more pictures later of the rest of my journey in Seoul.

No comments:

Post a Comment